Peter Scott: Schroeder Romero - Brooklyn, New York

 

Peter Scott, BEDROOM II, 2000, C-print


At a glance, Peter Scott’s three untitled (mirror
paintings) look like nothing more than furniture.
Vertically hung mirrors with gilded, silvered, and oak
frames, they come across as so familiar and ultimately
prosaic that a viewer might be tricked into thinking
that’s all they are. It would be easy to read them as
institutional critique, meant to draw attention to the
white artificiality of their gallery context. But the
mirrors are also windows, a fact that takes a few
moments of careful looking to discover. Through them,
fragments of scenes in hidden shadowboxes begin to
appear behind one’s own reflection (wearing art
priestly black comes in handy here). And the hidden
paintings are the point.

Each depicts a violent assault. One shows a choking
woman being strangled from behind by a stocking faced
criminal, a scene with intimations of rape. In
another, a terrified woman raises an axe to defend
herself against an unseen assailant. The third shows
an apparent mugger, mad with rage, pummeling a man.
It’s as if the worries that typically follow us down
dark, deserted streets have intruded in this bright
place. Seeing one’s own reflection superimposed on a
faint and fragmented view of these disturbing scenes
turns haunting, like memories of a nightmare that
lingers through the day.


Scott’s deftly rendered images of physical attack are
in gouache. They have the melodrama, lively brushwork,
and claustrophobic perspective of illustrations in
vintage magazines like True Crime. Through the
mirrored glass their nostalgic flavor only gradually
becomes clear, but when it does, it has the curious
effect of sloughing off that first flush of horror.
After losing their connection to any sense of the
truth about crime, they leave a viewer pondering how
TV news and entertainment today also misrepresent
reality, usually for the sake of ratings, and how they
foster a climate of fear that encourages draconian
laws and gated communities.


To bring the gallery experience home, Scott also
exhibits four cibachrome prints of elaborately
fabricated domestic interiors in which each of the
mirror paintings poses as an ordinary mirror. Scott’s
upper-class tableaux have an unlived-in quality about
them, more like ads for the good life than like real
homes. In hallway, the floral engravings, sconce
lamps, and Rococo porcelain figure group on a
Neoclassical Revival table speak to a certain set of
social aspirations, known for its security and its
ennui—quite a clash with the safety threat and the
frisson of the barely visible strangulation/rape scene
behind the mirror. The mirror reflects the porcelain
statue, both optically and thematically—the statue
depicts a man playfully catching his lover by the
hair. Scott offers a similar reflection in bedroom II,
where, above the bureau, the mirror painting of the
punching mugger hangs over a small bronze sculpture of
a golden retriever, the broken body of a duck in its
jaws. Incisive and darkly humorous, Scott suggests
that the brutality of street crime resembles society’s
sanctioned forms of violence, not just in dating or
hunting, but in the aggressiveness with which wealth
is acquired.


Andrew Weinstein
New York, New York
2004

 

Peter Scott, HALLWAY, 2000, C-print